Ex-minister tells Habre trial of dictator's 'absolute tribal power'

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A former minister of ousted Chadian president Hissene Habre told a war crimes tribunal in Senegal Thursday of the dictator's aura of "absolute, tribal power" during his eight-year reign of terror.

Habre, who fled to Senegal after being deposed in 1990, is being prosecuted in his adoptive country for war crimes, crimes against humanity and torture committed against thousands of Chadians.

"I was in an open prison because I was followed everywhere by the (secret police). All my movements, my whereabouts, were registered," said Faustin Facho Balaam, a planning minister in the final two years of the regime.

"In the cabinet, substantive issues were not discussed. We challenged nothing. Once the president decided something, that was it."

Balaam, now a refugee in France, said Habre showed a "complete disregard for colleagues", wondering if the dictator "did not consider himself a demi-god. It was about absolute, tribal power."

An estimated 40,000 people were killed under Habre's regime, and the Extraordinary African Chambers, whose authority Habre refuses to recognise, will rule on whether the dictator is personally responsible.

"People in all the ethnic groups were killed. This was a terrifying period that markeds us all and still marks the Chadians," Balaam added.

Once dubbed "Africa's Pinochet", Habre has been in custody in Senegal since his arrest in June 2013 at the home he shared in a plush neighbourhood of Dakar with his wife and children.

His trial heard earlier this week how the Documentation and Security Directorate (DDS), described as "the eyes and the ears of the president", meted out a variety of abusive punishments to detainees.

Torture of suspects under the regime included electric shocks, gas sprayed into eyes, spice rubbed into their private parts and waterboarding, the tribunal heard.